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In this corner, a Fish Shop taco

Fresh catch seafood gets the corn tortilla treatment

Nice marlin. Or should I say marlin marlin?
Nice marlin. Or should I say marlin marlin?

Fish tacos are becoming an obsession. If you go around spouting off about food around town on a weekly basis, people start to ask questions along the lines of, "So where are the best fish tacos in in San Diego?"

I don't have a ready answer.

I can tell you a number of places to find a pretty satisfying fish taco, but I can't honestly point to one that blows the rest out of the water. Don't get me wrong — that I can tell you five or ten places worth trying is one of the great perks of living here. But if you press me for one that tops all others, my answer will change depending on whichever's closest.

And when I see one on the menu of a good seafood spot, "Voted Best Fish Taco in San Diego," I'm obliged to try it.

Place

Pacific Beach Fish Shop

1775 Garnet Avenue, San Diego

The TKO Taco at PB Fish Shop won the inaugural TKO Fish Taco Competition, part of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival that takes place each November. You might say its foodie papers appear to be in order. Of course, that was 2011. Maybe now the shine has worn off a bit.

The Fish Shop operates the sort of see-it-before-you-buy-it fresh-catch seafood counter that got Blue Water featured on the Food Network. It's even gone whole hog on the nautical décor — or whole marlin I suppose, as there's a very large trophy fish replica hanging from a chain outside the shop.

Stands to reason their fish tacos would be good. The TKO pairs grilled mahi mahi with "tropical salsa" (code for mango) on a corn tortilla. Okay, so it's not the beer-battered Baja style I crave during every sunset, but I'm not sentimental. My only beef with mahi mahi is the name. Can't we all just agree that simply calling it mahi gets the point across? No one would waste their breath saying tuna tuna, or haddock haddock. I digress.

In theory, avocado should make every taco better. TKO Taco. PB Fish Shop

I got my taco and took some time to consider it. Would adding a nontropical salsa or hot sauce muddy my appreciation of the award-winning recipe? I'd already added the optional avocado — did the champion taco have a slice of avo, or was I marring the experience with my hardwired American more-is-better attitude?

Eating it was pleasant. Definitely a light-tasting fish, with a spicy fruity garnish in a respectable corn tortilla. (Fresh fish is their game, not griddlin masa.) It went down quick, and I wished I had some time before returning to work to pair it with a craft beer, as would have been during the contest.

I just question whether it embodies the true spirit of a taco. I mean, you don't slap black beans on a turkey kale wrap and call it a burrito. Not to get too philosophical, but can just anything be considered a taco simply by virtue of being contained in a small, hand-sized tortilla?

I gotta assume these contests favor creativity and effort. I'd really like to see them judge the actual everyday tacos that give this town its true flavor. Ultimately, this one ain't the drop-you-to-the-floor knockout fish taco I've been looking for. Just, as advertised, a TKO.

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Nice marlin. Or should I say marlin marlin?
Nice marlin. Or should I say marlin marlin?

Fish tacos are becoming an obsession. If you go around spouting off about food around town on a weekly basis, people start to ask questions along the lines of, "So where are the best fish tacos in in San Diego?"

I don't have a ready answer.

I can tell you a number of places to find a pretty satisfying fish taco, but I can't honestly point to one that blows the rest out of the water. Don't get me wrong — that I can tell you five or ten places worth trying is one of the great perks of living here. But if you press me for one that tops all others, my answer will change depending on whichever's closest.

And when I see one on the menu of a good seafood spot, "Voted Best Fish Taco in San Diego," I'm obliged to try it.

Place

Pacific Beach Fish Shop

1775 Garnet Avenue, San Diego

The TKO Taco at PB Fish Shop won the inaugural TKO Fish Taco Competition, part of the San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival that takes place each November. You might say its foodie papers appear to be in order. Of course, that was 2011. Maybe now the shine has worn off a bit.

The Fish Shop operates the sort of see-it-before-you-buy-it fresh-catch seafood counter that got Blue Water featured on the Food Network. It's even gone whole hog on the nautical décor — or whole marlin I suppose, as there's a very large trophy fish replica hanging from a chain outside the shop.

Stands to reason their fish tacos would be good. The TKO pairs grilled mahi mahi with "tropical salsa" (code for mango) on a corn tortilla. Okay, so it's not the beer-battered Baja style I crave during every sunset, but I'm not sentimental. My only beef with mahi mahi is the name. Can't we all just agree that simply calling it mahi gets the point across? No one would waste their breath saying tuna tuna, or haddock haddock. I digress.

In theory, avocado should make every taco better. TKO Taco. PB Fish Shop

I got my taco and took some time to consider it. Would adding a nontropical salsa or hot sauce muddy my appreciation of the award-winning recipe? I'd already added the optional avocado — did the champion taco have a slice of avo, or was I marring the experience with my hardwired American more-is-better attitude?

Eating it was pleasant. Definitely a light-tasting fish, with a spicy fruity garnish in a respectable corn tortilla. (Fresh fish is their game, not griddlin masa.) It went down quick, and I wished I had some time before returning to work to pair it with a craft beer, as would have been during the contest.

I just question whether it embodies the true spirit of a taco. I mean, you don't slap black beans on a turkey kale wrap and call it a burrito. Not to get too philosophical, but can just anything be considered a taco simply by virtue of being contained in a small, hand-sized tortilla?

I gotta assume these contests favor creativity and effort. I'd really like to see them judge the actual everyday tacos that give this town its true flavor. Ultimately, this one ain't the drop-you-to-the-floor knockout fish taco I've been looking for. Just, as advertised, a TKO.

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Comments
2

Ian, I bet you never liked Duran Duran! ;-)

July 24, 2014

Mahi means "strong" in the Hawaiian language; "very strong" is conveyed by repeating the word and hyphenating: mahi-mahi.

July 27, 2014

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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